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Haiti: Violence puts patients, medical activities, and staff at risk

Haiti: Violence puts patients, medical activities, and staff at risk

A spike in violence in Haiti's capital is putting lives and medical activities in jeopardy, the international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said, warning that medical care cannot be sustained while armed clashes and robberies affect health facilities, vehicles, patients and staff.

In the first week of June, clashes in the neighborhood of Martissant and other districts of Port-au-Prince caused many injuries and displaced more than 1,000 people, including MSF patients and staff. From June 2 to 4, MSF's emergency center in Martissant received 42 patients with gunshot wounds, and the most severe cases were transferred to MSF's trauma hospital in the Tabarre neighborhood. During the same period, Tabarre hospital received 42 patients in total, including 38 with gunshot wounds, forcing MSF to increase its capacity from 50 to 68 beds.

"We are witnessing an extremely worrying deterioration in the security situation," said Alessandra Giudiceandrea, MSF head of mission. "Some armed clashes took place near MSF's emergency center and offices in Martissant, where staff had to take cover from stray bullets. Armed individuals robbed two MSF ambulance drivers among other vehicles traveling from Martissant. To protect our staff, we have had to reduce activities in Martissant and focus only on life-threatening cases."

According to MSF, from May 15 to 31, clashes also took place in the Cité Soleil and Bel Air neighborhoods, during which the Tabarre hospital cared for 41 patients, including 32 victims of violence, exhausting the hospital’s capacity. In another incident, a staff member of MSF's Tabarre hospital was shot and killed on May 25 while returning home from work.

The increased level of chronic violence is taking place amid a broader political and economic crisis in Haiti that affects people in many ways. Health systems are strained not only by insecurity but by a current increase in COVID-19 cases, economic challenges, and a high level of medical needs.

"At a time when we should be scaling up because of COVID-19 and other needs, we are struggling to keep our existing facilities open due to insecurity," Giudiceandrea said. "We ask everyone to respect the need for medical activities to continue."

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Emma Parkin Features and Documentaries Manager
Emma Parkin Features and Documentaries Manager
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